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Onslow tax rate steady for next year

LINDELL KAY

Onslow County’s proposed fiscal budget calls for 72 new positions at the new jail, holds the property tax line and makes $1 million available for pay raises.

The proposed county budget of $175,519,750, which maintains the current property tax of 58.5 cents per $100 of valuation, will be explained by county officials at four public meetings across Onslow County before a June 15 public hearing.

County Manager Jeff Hudson said he had to tighten proposed budgets submitted to him by various county offices to make room for the mammoth amount of new hires the county will see.

“The proposed fiscal year 2012 budget tackles the tough problems of public safety and public education while holding the line on the property tax rate,” Hudson said. “In most other areas, the proposed budget is a maintenance-only budget with few increases above prior years.”

Transportation, environmental protection, cultural and recreational, human services and economic development departments are slated for either less money or a slight bump from the current year.

Public safety will receive 16.43 percent more funding than the current year, and education will see a 6.07-percent increase.

While funding for education is up from this year, it is not as much as was asked for by the school system. One of the most noticeable gaps in request and approval is for the Onslow County School’s capital budget. For the last eight fiscal years prior to 2009-10, the school system’s capital budget had been $3 million. The Board of Education asked for $3 million in 2010-11 and received $1.5 million. This time around, the school board again asked for $3 million but the budget calls for $1.75 million.

The number of employees needed at the new jail was determined by the state after a workforce study. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services conducted the staffing study and determined that a total of 127 positions would be necessary to operate the new jail. Around $3 million is budgeted for 38 detention officers, 10 corporals, seven sergeants, five deputies, four lieutenants, two captains, two first sergeants, two records clerks, an accounting clerk and a housekeeper. The county is hiring only one employee, fully funded by the county, who will not be working in the new jail: a veterans services assistant with an annual salary of $40,627.

The budget allows for a $1 million non-departmental contingency line to give the Board of Commissioners funds should they decide to increase county employee salaries. The commissioners may award all, some or none of the money or may combine the money with certain benefits, Hudson said. Salary increases are typically offered through four methods: a cost-of-living adjustment; a merit-based raise; market adjustments, which increase the salary range of a position; and bonuses.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for June 15 at 7 p.m. at Jacksonville City Hall.

Prior to that, the budget will be presented to the public at four 6:30 p.m. meetings: Tuesday June 7 at the Onslow County Museum in Richlands, Wednesday June 8 at the Onslow County Multipurpose Complex on U.S. 258, June 13 at the Swansboro Branch Library, and June 14 at the Sneads Ferry Branch Library.